Coronavirus: Blogger Emna Charqui given jail term over Koran-style post

Emna Charqui, who was charged with offending common decency and incitement to violence, speaks to reporters outside a court in the capital Tunis, 28 May 2020Image copyright
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Emna Charqui, seen here in May, said she never intended to shock, only to amuse

A blogger in Tunisia has been sentenced to six months in prison after sharing a satirical post about Covid-19 written in the form of a verse from the Koran.

Emna Charqui, 28, was arrested in May for sharing a message on Facebook urging people to follow hygiene rules in the style of Islam’s holy book.

Charqui said in a recent interview that she had no intention of provoking shock, but found the post amusing.

She was found guilty in a Tunis court of “inciting hatred between religions”.

She is not yet in custody as she intends to file an appeal.

On 2 May, Charqui shared a post on social media mimicking a Koranic verse. In it, the text called for people to wash their hands and observe social distancing in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The image was reportedly designed and originally shared by an Algerian atheist who lives in France.

Charqui’s post appeared during the fasting month of Ramadan and while Tunisia was still largely under lockdown.

It caused a stir online, with some social media users labelling it offensive and calling for Charqui, an openly avowed atheist, to be punished.

Days later she was questioned by police.

On 27 May, following news that Charqui was facing trial over the Facebook post, Amnesty International released a statement calling for the Tunisian authorities to halt the prosecution.

“The prosecution of Emna is yet another illustration of how, despite Tunisia’s democratic progress, the authorities continue to use repressive law to undermine freedom of expression,” Amnesty’s North Africa director Amna Guellali said.

Ms Guellali said the right to freedom of expression extended to what “some might consider shocking or offensive” and called on the Tunisian government to amend the law “so they are compliant with human rights”.